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Immigration Rally
About 160 people, including religious leaders from around the nation, called for immigration reform at a rally in Kenosha, Thursday April 29, 2010. The rally began with prayer, songs, and speeches at Immanuel United Methodist Church, before the march to the Kenosha County Jail, where the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is holding about 150 undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation, according to rally organizers. Ana Garcia-Ashley, associate director of the Gamaliel Foundation which sponsored the rally, applauds remarks at the church. / Mark Hertzberg mhertzberg@journaltimes.com Buy this photo at jtreprints.com

KENOSHA - Standing in front of the Kenosha County Jail, about 160 people raised their right hands into the air Thursday. The echo of a single Conga drum sounded at a steady beat and the crowd stood silent as they were led in prayer.

They were there for immigration reform and to pray for illegal immigrants who the government has detained. Some are in the Kenosha Detention Center and others are in 270 detention centers across the country, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE.

Kenosha County has a contract with ICE and currently Kenosha has about 160 detainees in custody, said Sgt. Gil Benn of the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department. Most of them are at the Kenosha County Detention Center, 4777 88th Ave.

Maria Morales, coordinator for Voces de la Frontera in Racine, said she knows of two people from Racine who are being held in Kenosha because of their immigration status.

Just this week, a man came to her crying that his son was incarcerated in Kenosha for his status. The man, now facing possible deportation, has children here and his father didn't know what to do, Morales said.

"There is not much that can be done," Morales said. "He will probably have to raise those children."

Hasan Hakeem, a chaplain at the Kenosha County Jail and Detention Center, said most of the illegal immigrants who are detained in Kenosha are Hispanic but they are also many other ethnicities.

"Everyone has the understanding this is just about Hispanics," Hakeem said. "It's not."

Some people are from Russia, China, Africa and the Middle East, he said.

When he talks to the detainees the most common things he hears are: "Help me" and "How can I get back to my family?" Hakeem said.

While he talked about detainees' concerns, he also stressed that the Kenosha center's staff treated detainees fairly. Still he wants reform.

"You have a system here that needs to be reformed," Hakeem said. "There is nowhere in the Bible we are asked to check someone's immigration status."

Thursday he was at the prayer procession to join in the power of collective prayer for immigration reform, he said.

"My belief is that there is nothing stronger than collective prayer," Hakeem said.

He was one of the speakers at the event sponsored by WISDOM, a state-wide faith based organization that seeks justice. It is an affiliate of the Gamaliel Foundation, a national organization committed to social justice.

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